Pilates and Yoga

Pilates and Yoga

By Stephanie Muir

Many people believe Yoga and Pilates to be one in the same. This misunderstanding is easy to come by since both have a mind body element. It has been said that Joseph Pilates himself drew from many exercise disciplines when he founded his method. Yoga was one of these many disciplines. In this article we are going to look at the differences between Yoga and Pilates base on their history and how they are typically taught.


Yoga has been around for thousands of years. Speculated to have been developed around  the six and fifth century BC. It was/is practiced for more than just the physical but has mental, religious and spiritual elements too.

There are many types of yoga such as Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa and Bikram just to name a few. Although one can go to a yoga class purely for the physical benefits as available at many gyms and fitness centers today. However, historically your traditional  yoga has strong ties to spiritual religions such a Hinduism and Buddhism.

Pilates and Yoga


Pilates as we know and practice today was founded by a person, a German born man by the name of Joseph Pilates who was born in 1880 and died in 1967. He did extensive research on his method and was obsessed with the health of the body. As a child he was sickly and due to his condition he built himself up from being sickly to a body of integrity and strength. Joseph called his method “Contrology”. Contrology was a specific method of exercises in an order designed to work the body in such a way to create internal health. The method focuses on six main principles, breathing, concentration, centering, control, precision and flow. Principles such as breathing are important to rid the body of toxins and “staleness” to fresh oxygen and the stimulation of the blood.

Pilates and Yoga

Pilates and Yoga

Similarities and Differences


Both Yoga and Pilates are brilliant for alleviating stress. The mind body connection and focus necessary to perform both yoga and Pilates in a class forces you to tune out of any external or internal stress. With everyone being so busy and stressed from various demands by society this provides individuals with some down time to focus inward.

Pilates and Yoga

Lengthening Muscles

Yoga and Pilates are great for lengthening muscles. Yoga tends to hold poses for an extended period of time, allowing them to release. Pilates works from the “powerhouse” in a controlled manner performing a small number of repetitions before moving on to the next exercise.

Although both succeed in lengthening tight muscles, certain body types are better suited to either one of the other. For example your hyper-mobile individual would probably be better suited to Pilates than Yoga. Reason being they tend to hinge from their joints and the need for a controlled stretch is vital to prevent injuries. However for an individual with good body awareness and control, holding a yoga pose would be a great challenge.

Mat and Apparatus Work

Pilates is practiced primarily on the mat and studio equipment such as the reformer, wunda chair, cadillac and tower. Yoga primarily works on the mat with props such as the block and straps. The majority of yoga classes are carried out on the mat whereas Pilates offers classes on the mat as well as on the equipment listed. The pulleys and springs used on the equipment both assist and challenge the body in movement.



Poses and Movement

In some types of Yoga, poses are held for long periods of time, this is not the case in a Pilates. Instead of holding the position of an exercise Pilates focuses on controlled and precise movement.Typically lower repetitions in movements are found in Pilates as you use the whole body and do not exhaust any muscles groups. Joseph Pilates considered this intelligent exercising. At times the movement can be at pace for cardiovascular benefits and other times slower to suit the client.


To conclude, both Pilates and Yoga share many benefits with a few differences. It is also always important to note that under the umbrella of the name Pilates are many types of training and then under the training each and every instructor is an individual who will bring their own uniqueness to the classes they teach. The same goes for the many types of Yoga available.


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